Shortly after revealing the new touchscreen-touting, Alexa-enabled Echo Show, Amazon announced a new service called Alexa Calling & Messaging that lets users send audio messages and place calls using Alexa-enable devices and the Amazon Alexa app.
I, like many of my acquaintances, immediately updated my Alexa app and enabled the service. The process requires you to send your contacts to Amazon so it can link you up with any of your contacts who are also using Alexa Calling & Messaging. Once you've enabled the service and logged in, you see a list of the people you can bug with Alexa Calls and Messages. It's fun! … or at least it's fun until you read an article on The Verge that says anyone with your contact information can call you and send you messages and there's nothing you can do about it.
Amazon Echo-owner Elise Oras put together a blog post after she discovered the privacy problem. Here she explains what happened after she set up the new calling service:
Every contact that also has the Alexa app is now in my Alexa Calling contacts. Among my contacts were old landlords, many co-workers, random vendor account managers, city councilmen, and of course, crazy ex-boyfriends. And each one now has a direct line into my home.
Yeah, no bueno. So she contacted Amazon Support on Twitter to figure out how to fix the problem:
Yeah, really no bueno. And it turns out it isn't easy to disable Alexa Calling & Messaging on your Alexa-enabled devices. It's baffling Amazon didn't include a way to whitelist or block contacts before it shipped this product, but hopefully the attention this privacy problem receives will have Amazon developers springing into action to fix it up.
What's your take on this privacy problem? Should Amazon have thought to include the feature before shipping? Sound off in the comments!